Your database or customer relationship management system (CRM) may hold valuable information about your customers that will help you to understand their needs. However, you can gather more information to improve your service further. Mac Mackay of Duncan Alexander & Wilmshurst tells us how
Some fundamental questions to ask about customer records might be:
It is worth recognising when trying to understand customers, that there is a process involved when customers BUY what it is your organisation provides. At the beginning, potential customers may not know anything about your organisation but in the end they take the action to buy your products are services. Understanding this process can help make sure that you succeed in 'selling' to a customer. The basic buying process is as follows:
Good CRM systems can track all interactions between potential customers and those actually buying. By so doing, it is possible to use particular marketing communications to understand where particular potential customers are in the process and take them from one stage to the next until they are actually buying from you.
Do remember that in many situations, it is not just one person that makes the decision to buy your products or services. In many markets, more than one person is involved in the buying decision. Children influence their parents, for example, and in business-to-business markets, the bigger the value of the purchase, the more people are involved in the decision. We call this the decision-making unit or DMU.
There are six possible roles in a DMU and are listed below in no particular order. It is worth noting that some individuals in a DMU may have more than one functional role in the buying decision.
DMUs may be individuals or groups of individuals and have the following roles in the buying process - and let us use an example of your organisation considering the purchase of a new telephone system:
Before the new telephone system is purchased, everyone in the DMU must be through the buying process to 'decision' and 'action' at the same time otherwise the purchase cannot be agreed. Good CRM systems include information on the DMU and where each individual or group is in the buying process.
Remember, CRM systems are more sophisticated than simple mailing lists. Because they hold information about customer behaviour and preferences they can improve customer satisfaction and retention. They can help you to identify customer needs more effectively, allowing you to up-sell and cross-sell, increasing profitability.